SUPPORT FOR A Seattle AIDS memorial has been pouring in from many sources: foundations, wealthy individuals, and state and local government. But some of the most poignant donations have come from people in their 70s and 80s, many with limited incomes, who lost loved ones to the disease and experienced the horrors of the epidemic firsthand, says organizer Tom Rasmussen.

“It had such a profound effect on their lives. They remember what happened.”

Some have written checks for $1,000 or more, helping to bring total donations to $2.2 million of the estimated $2.9 million price tag. The Capitol Hill Lions Club, with about a half-dozen members who meet regularly, voted to give $5,000. The group used to be much bigger, back when they called themselves the Sunshine Boys, says member Bob Porter, 87. He was teaching abroad during the height of the epidemic, but began working with organizations to help people with AIDS when he returned to Seattle in the late 1990s. “I was shocked at how much it affected the population in Seattle,” says Porter, who also donated $1,000 of his own money. “By the grace of God, I managed to escape it.” Other club members watched helplessly as friends wasted away.

The AIDS Memorial Pathway will include multiple art installations and informational displays, situated on the plaza at the Capitol Hill light rail station and adjacent Cal Anderson Park — the historic heart of Seattle’s gay community. The memorial will commemorate those lost to the disease and celebrate Seattle’s collaborative approach to fighting the epidemic. Initial art installations should be completed by June 2020, with the entire project done by December 2020.

“The AIDS epidemic was one of the great tragedies in Seattle history,” says Rasmussen, the first openly gay man to serve on the city council. Thousands died, but the community rallied to provide support. “In some cases, there was hostility and discrimination, but in others there was great heroism by people who created organizations and places to help people with HIV and AIDS.”